Mark Cousins’ latest documentary offering is one of imagination and inspiration. The First Movie (2009) and The Story of Film: an Odyssey (2011) set Cousins up as a truly unique documentary filmmaker. He holds the passion for film viewing as much as any deserving cinephile, the knowledge of a discerning film studies graduate and the ability to direct documentaries like no other filmmaker around today. An array of wonderful books on film and its magical forms and impressive projects such as Cinema is Everywhere (2009) have shown, his devotion to the medium of film seemingly knows no bounds.
A very average melodrama of family affairs. Given the scope and celebration of director Asghar Farhadi’s previous film A Separation (2011) this was a huge disappointment. A man who abandons his wife in France to return to his life in Iran comes back when she requests a divorce. Ahamd’s wife Marie-Anne is now living with Samir, another younger Iranian man, and has set about redecorating the house they lived in. Samir’s young boy Fouad lives with Marie-Anne’s two girls, troubled teenager Lucie and wide eyed wonderer Lea.
An exciting new talent announced itself at the Alamo Ritz last night and their names are Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. Their new movie, Starry Eyes, premiered to a sold out crowd last night to great reception. If you’re a genre movie fan attending SXSW this year and this movie isn’t on your radar, you’re doing it wrong.
This is a true story. During the Q&A of the screening I attended of Actress, Robert Greene’s complex and artfully human new documentary, one woman couldn’t get through her question before losing her struggle with tears. She commended Brandy Burre, the subject, more or less for her vulnerability. Then she lost it, sobbing silently in the unlit audience as slews of “I thought this scene was…”-es and “How did you…”-s finished off the fifteen minutes.
For everything Actress is, emotionally devastating isn’t the first attribute I’d assign it. Burre, who’s theater-trained, had broached ‘making it’ with a role on The Wire. Soon after, she opted out of the industry to be a mom. Her six-year absence from acting sapped her and strained her relationship with her partner, the father of her children. The documentary, chronicling her reentry into the biz, has its emotional turbulences, to be certain. But its strengths lie in its insight and patience, as the actress in Burre comes out more and more to interact with the camera. Those aren’t necessarily the most wrenching traits.
There is something so sublime about subversion. It takes you away from the monotony of the ordinary and forces you to view reality (or whatever you would like to call it) from a different perspective. It forces you to think, to underthink, and to overthink. And it turns absurdity (both the comical and the existential ideas) into commonplace events. Certain filmmakers have a knack for subversion, like David Lynch, Luis Buñuel, and Douglas Sirk. They all possess a fundamental understanding of a universal subversive language, one that doesn’t rely on phonetics or letters, but relies on visuals and experiences. Pier Paolo Pasolini understood that subversive language, which is why Teorema (1968) is such an enjoyable film to watch.
In Pier Paolo Pasolini’s debut feature, Accattone, Pasolini quickly establishes a defining cinematic language that would make saints of sinners and deities from the scourge of the streets. These were the ignoble byproducts of a post-war rebuilding in Italy as a shifting of the framework of nobility would wash upon the ancient chalky shores of Rome and impose new ways of thought onto a proud and impressionable populace. Pasolini sees divinity in the struggles of the miscreants, pimps, thieves, and prostitutes of Italy, finding weary saints in the eyes of men borne into streets ill-suited for the imposition of ubiquitous bourgeoisie thinking. They live like confused warriors and prophets amidst the burgeoning reforms of industrialization, the unwitting slaves of a new social caste that has little tolerance for the wiles of the cunning rogue.
When I heard they were making a Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie, I forgot almost instantly. I was familiar with the series, but I had never really gotten into it altogether. The marketing for the film never seemed to grab me, and I only attended my Tuesday night press screening because I had nothing better to do and my buddy seemed to be more interested in it then I was. I mention all these factors to say that I was pleasantly surprised by not only how much I enjoyed the film, but by how often and how hard Rob Minkoff’s latest directorial outing made me guffaw. Mind you, this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination as masterful as Minkoff’s The Lion King. There are some frustrating script and pacing issues, and the film has a tendency to learn toward schmaltz more often than is necessary, but screenwriter Craig Wright so greatly brings out the humor in his story it’s easy to recommend the film simply because of its wit.
Maybe I just picked the perfect year to start coming, but I suspect that the 2014 True/False Fest was fairly typical of the event’s high quality and welcoming atmosphere. It’s definitely a film festival to watch, and to attend yourself, if you get the chance. I know I’ll be back. Here are my final thoughts via some awards. (Note: because of its slightly different nature, I’ve not made Richard Linklater’s Boyhood eligible for any of these awards. Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that you should see this film as soon as you possible can.)
Pier Palo Pasolini’s second feature, Mamma Roma, is a beautiful film about a mother’s sacrifice to provide a better life for her son. Pasolini uses echoes of the Neorealism style that was established out of necessity 17 years prior by Roberto Rossellini, Vitorio De Sica and others. It’s a style that utilizes non-professional actors and existing sets and locations, partly to lower the costs of the film and partly to evoke a more natural, realistic quality. The only professional actor Pasolini uses in the film is the lead, Anna Magnani, who was in Rome, Open City (1945) which is considered the first film in the Neorealism movement.
There are plenty of great movies about there about the simmering tensions within families. There are numerous fascinating and compelling looks at brothers who have grown in separate directions, who have ancient resentments that are never fully buried and never quite die. There are movies about relationships being repaired in the event of a tragedy, and many of these are even comedic. Then there’s Awful Nice, a train-wreck of a movie that is insight-free, completely without nuance, and wholly unable to conjure even a single chuckle.